At the Republic Day parade today, Squadron Leader Rijul Sharma was awarded the Vayu Sena Medal for gallantry. Sharma, a fighter pilot trained to fly the multi-role MiG-29 aircraft of the Indian Air Force, risked his life to earn this prestigious award.
While Sharma was flying an air test sortie on 1 June 2016, an unexpected complication arose. The air test sortie involved taking the aircraft to a height of 10 km and testing its performance at supersonic speed. While the aircraft was 110 km away from the base, flying at a speed of 1.1 Mach, the canopy perspex of the aircraft that covers the avionics got damaged, exposing the pilot to risks.
The broken canopy exposed Sharma to very low temperatures and high-speed wind. Pieces from the damaged canopy injured Sharam’s right shoulder, making it difficult for him to manoeuvre the MiG-29 that he was flying. According to Defence Aviation Post, “human exposure to such low temperatures, aero-medical problems of decompression sickness and few seconds to useful consciousness due to Hypoxia required prompt actions on the part of the pilot.”
Despite being in a situation where a fighter pilot would ideally eject and save his life, Squadron Leader Rijul Sharma displayed exceptional courage. He flew the damaged plane back to the air base, saving the life of civilians, strategic infrastructure on the ground, and the expensive aircraft.
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